Height: 3,000 ft (900 m)

Maximum width: 3 mi (5 km)

Depth: 3, 960 ft (1,200 m)


Description of Sognefjord

Sognefjord is the largest fjord in Norway that is situated in Sogn og Fjordane County. It is also the third longest in the World stretching for 205 kilometres (127 mi) all the way to a innermost arm of Lustrafjord that leads to a small village of Skjolden. Tourist cruise ships travel through the whole distance and makes stops in several locations allowing visitors to explore medieval villages and structures along a way. This include several stave wooden churches including Borgund Church, Kaupanger Church, Urnes Church and many others.


The formation of the Sognefjord began 2.57 million years ago during the Pleistocene. As a result of erosion caused by the convergence of glaciers, the river system turned into a fjord. At the same time, 7610 km³ of rock was destroyed over the entire area of the Sognefjord basin, which currently stands at 12,518 km². The average depression caused by erosion was 610 meters, and the maximum (in the eastern part) - 2850 meters. Annual erosion rates reached 2 mm per year.


The inner part of the fjord lies on the leeward side of high mountains like Breheimen (with the glacier Jostedalsbreen). Therefore, there is a significant difference in climate between pronounced maritime climate at the mouth into the open sea and continental climate at the inner end of the fjord and its side arms. Below the mouth of the fjord is a rocky outcrop that only lets the warm water from the North Sea flow into the fjord. As a result, the climate is mild and allows, especially on the north shore, extensive fruit cultivation.


The Sognefjord region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been attractive to tourists for a long time. It offers various national parks, such as the Jotunheimen National Park, the Jostedalsbreen Glacier National Park and the valleys Aurlandsdalen and Utladalen. The highest mountain pass in northern Europe, the Sognefjellsveien, runs through the Jotunheimen National Park. Another attraction point is the Vettisfossen in Øvre Årdal, with 275 meters free fall one of the highest waterfalls in Norway.

In addition to scenic features, there are numerous culturally interesting offers. The award-winning Norwegian Glacier Museum in Fjærland, a wild salmon center or Norway's oldest stave church, Urnes Stave Church are among them.

Scenically, this part of Norway is one of the most popular hiking regions in Norway. Glacier hikes, kayaking on fjords and glacial lakes and cruises or fjord cruises are some of the popular outdoor activities.


Borgund Church

Location: Borgund, Lærdal    Map

Borgund Stave Church is a medieval wooden church situated on the shores of Sognefjord near a village of Borgund, Lærdal. It was constructed in the 12th century. In addition to usual European Christian symbols it also contains several inscriptions using traditional runic writing.


Kaupanger Church

Location: Sogn og Fjordane County   Map

Kaupanger Stave Church is a another medieval church in the Sognefjord that was constructed in the mid 12th century.


Urnes Church

Location: Ornes Farm   Map

Urnes Stave Churh is situated on the Ornes Farm along an innermost arm of Sognefjord known as Lustrafjord. It was completed somewhere in the early 12th century.




From the inner parts of Årdal or Skjolden, the fjord gradually becomes deeper outwards (westwards). The deepest part is approximately at Åkrestrand and Vadheim. The outer part of the fjord (at Losna and Sula) has a marked threshold with depths of 100 to 200 meters, where the fjord bottom rises abruptly from 1200 meters deep to about 100 meters. In Sognesjøen there are several small troughs (with depths down to 400-500 meters) with thresholds in between. Across the fjord, the bottom is partly completely flat with less than 1 meter variation in depth of 2 km cross section. The bottom is covered with fine material (clay) which at Vangsnes is up to 300 meters thick. Between 50 and 180 km from the mouth, the fjord bottom is relatively flat. Almost all the side fjords form hanging valleys to the main fjord. For example, the mouth of the Fjærlandsfjord is about 400 meters deep while the main fjord is close to 1200 meters deep just outside the mouth. The mouth of the Vadheimfjord is 400 meters deep. The mouth of the Ikjefjord is only 50 meters deep close to where the main fjord is at its deepest. In large parts of the fjord, it is "abysmal" in that the steep mountain sides continue just as steeply under water.


Climate and fresh water
Terrain formations and distance to the sea lead to large variations in climate along the fjord. The amount of precipitation decreases sharply inland in the fjord. Lærdal is located in the rain shadow and has very little precipitation, while west-facing slopes further out have a lot of precipitation and there the precipitation often increases with altitude. Brekke and Takle in Ytre Sogn are among the places in Norway with the most precipitation. North of the Sognefjord is the Jostedalsbreen glacier, Norway's largest glacier, and parts of the meltwater drain into the Sognefjord. Wind conditions are strongly affected by terrain formations. In winter, the dominant wind direction is out into the fjord or out the side valleys in the form of so-called downwinds. The falling winds can be very strong and have great significance for cooling and icing. The slopes and valleys along the inner parts of the fjord have a partly mild climate and fruit bar which makes the area suitable for growing fruit and berries, among other things. The slopes along the fjord have partly large coniferous forest, for example in the roadless area of ​​Frønningen.

The fjord receives fresh water mainly from the rivers and very little precipitation directly on the fjord's water level. In the inner part of the Sognefjord, the total supply of fresh water during a year corresponds to a depth of 33 meters if it were distributed over the entire area of ​​the fjord. In the spring and partly in the autumn, the upper 2-3 meters of the fjord are brackish water, especially in the side fjords. The salt content of the surface is at least summer and autumn. In June 1954, for example, 5 ‰ salt was measured in the upper meter of the Lustrafjord, while at great depths it was 34.5 ‰. Regulation of the watercourses for power production has led to a larger part of fresh water flowing into the fjord during the winter.

Jostedøla's material transport (in the form of sludge) involves a sedimentation in the Gaupnefjord of 10 to 20 cm / year near the river estuary, and 1 cm / year 2 km from the river estuary. The river transports 50,000 to 100,000 tons of sludge annually. The sludge concentration from Jostedøla is at most 1 g / liter. It is especially at Gaupne that the melt water from the glaciers is noticeable on the water color.

In the Sognefjord, incoming current is not very noticeable and is felt most by strong westerly winds. Outgoing current dominates and is particularly strong in spring and summer.

The watercourses Lærdalselvi, Aurlandselvi, Flåmselvi, Mørkridselvi, Henjaelvi, Grindselvi, Hamreelvi, Njøsaelvi, Kvinnafossen, Sogndalselvi and Jostedøla flow into the Sognefjord and have normal spring floods in June. Årdalsvatnet drains to the Sognefjord through the short Åreidselva or Hæreidselvi through Årdalstangen. Eidsvatnet in Luster drains to the Sognefjord near Mørkridselvi in ​​Skjolden.

The Sognefjord has herring and good sprat fishing. In the outer parts of the fjord, salmon has traditionally been fished with wedge nets. Salmon warp or "sitjenot" is a traditional method for salmon fishing and skilled fishermen could catch a lot of fish with this method. Hook nets and drift nets have dominated in modern times and do not require the same active fishing as warp. The salmon's migration in the fjord is controlled by currents in the surface and the warps are located where there are favorable current conditions where the salmon is driven close to land on their way into the fjord due to the current. In Leikanger and Balestrand there are many good places for sitejnot with Suppham as the clear best. Good salmon rivers such as Lærdalselva, Aurlandselva and Årøyelva flow into the Sognefjord.

The Sognefjord has been an important transport artery since ancient times. Gulatinget was probably held near the mouth of the Sognefjord and probably because it was convenient to hold the thing where the shipping lane along the coast met the large fjord. From the innermost arms of the fjord, there is a relatively short distance to the inner settlements in Eastern Norway, especially through Lærdal to Valdres over the moderate mountain pass Filefjell. From the 17th century, Lærdalsøyri was an important market and meeting place. There, farmers from Valdres, Hallingdal and Gudbrandsdalen sold slaughter, tar and other products from the interior and bought fish, salt, hemp and iron from the fjords and from Bergen. Around the year 1300, the authorities established a shuttle station on Maristova at the entrance to Filefjell. The first drivable road between east and west was built over Filefjell in 1792. From 1843, the wheeled steamer "Constitutionen" went on a route between Bergen and Lærdal, the county boats took over the route in 1857. The traffic road over Sognefjellet was built as a road in 1938. In 1940, the Flåm line connected the Sognefjord to the railway network. Stalheimskleivi, between Voss and Sogn, was built in 1850 and turned into a road in 1937. It has made it possible to transport agricultural products, fruit, berries and fish between the villages in Sogn and Bergen.

Three national roads cross the fjord by car ferry:
E39 between Lavik and Oppedal
Highway 13 between Vangsnes and Dragsvik
Highway 5 crosses the fjord by car ferry between Mannheller and Fodnes


E16 touches the Sognefjord's side fjords at Gudvangen, and between Flåm and Aurland.

There are six ferry connections that cross the fjord:
Mannheller – Fodnes
Hella – Dragsvik – Vangsnes
Lavik – Oppedal (E39)
Rysjedalsvika – Rutledal – Krakhella
Solvorn – Ornes
Ortnevik – Måren – Nordeide

With the exception of the private Tindevegen, there is no road connection between the north side and the south side of the fjord, the vehicles are transported by ferry. On behalf of the government, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has initiated studies on a permanent road crossing of the fjord. Due to the great depth of the fjord, it is not technically possible with an underwater tunnel. Instead, the agency is considering two alternatives: a floating bridge and a pipe tunnel a few tens of meters below sea level. The proposed fjord crossing will be included in Ferry-free E39 between Kristiansand and Trondheim.

There are daily express boat routes from Sogndal to Bergen and Selje in Nordfjord.

There are ports for cruise ships in Flåm and in Skjolden.

Flåmsbana, the only railway line in the county, has a terminus in Flåm by the Sognefjord. When the Bergen line was adopted, a siding to the Sognefjord was planned to connect Sogn to the railway network.

The Sognefjord was established as a tourist destination in the 19th century, including the establishment of the county boats. One of the targets was Gudvangen, which in 1889 received 79 large tourist ships with a total of over 10,000 passengers. In 1889, 4,500 passengers came with the county boats. The German emperor Wilhelm visited the Sognefjord and Balestrand for the first time in 1890. The emperor then visited the Sognefjord 25 times. The fjord itself and the surrounding area with Jotunheimen, Jostedalsbreen and several stave churches have made the Sognefjord one of Norway's most distinct tourist destinations. Balestrand, Vangsnes, Aurland and Fjærland were among the early destinations for English tourists in the 19th century.

From 1785, the Trondheim postal road crossed the Sognefjord by boat between Rutledal and Leirvik in Hyllestad. In 1647, a postal route was established between Bergen and Christiania. The post office then spent 7-8 days on Gudvangen, Lærdal and Valdres.

The county boats were established in 1858 with boat routes on the Sognefjord and to Bergen as an important activity.

In 1934, a ferry route was established along the fjord from Vadheim to Lærdal. From 1939 until the Lærdal tunnel opened, there was a car ferry between Gudvangen and Lærdal - first the ferry went to Lærdalsøyri itself, from 1966 to Revsnes when a road was built there to shorten the ferry route. In the 1990s, the ferry connection Revsnes-Kaupanger was replaced by Mannheller-Fodnes, and after this Kaupanger has only been used by the tourist route Gudvangen-Kaupanger-Lærdal. The road construction between Sogndal and Jølster on national road 5, including the Fjærland tunnel, created a ferry-free road connection on the north side of the fjord.

Sognefjorden in art
In the early national romanticism, Gerhard Munthe and his farm in Luster played a role. Among other things, Munthe collaborated with the Danish painter Johannes Flintoe and their journey in the summer of 1819 over the mountains from Hol in Hallingdal via Aurlandsdalen to Sogn marks the beginning of the artistic discovery of the Norwegian high mountains. The architect Hans Ditlev Franciscus von Linstow traveled with Munthe to Sogn. "Fra Nærøyfjorden" is one of the few well-known drawings made by Linstow. Thomas Fearnley visited Munthe at Kroken in 1826 where Fearnley met J.C. Dahl. Fearnley later traveled to Sogn with Andreas Achenbach and Chr. Breslauer.

Hans Gude was on a study trip to the Sognefjord in 1849, 1866 and 1889. The painting of Viking ships shows the area between Lærdalsøyri and Fresvik with the mountain Bleia. = Hans Dahl worked in the tradition after Anders Askevold and continued to paint in the old romantic style after realism and expressionism took over. He spent the summers in Balestrand and Emperor Wilhelm admired Dahl and made him an honorary professor in Berlin. Adelsteen Normann liked to visit the Sognefjord and Romsdalen. Normann was one of the emperors' favorites.

Andreas Achenbach visited Norway in 1839 and then probably painted Artists in the Sognefjord. Sogn og Sognefjorden had the landscape and monuments that the romantic painters sought, including Fimreite, the birch on Slinde, the burial mounds on Balestrand and on Vangsnes. In 1827, the Swedish painters Carl Johan Fahlcrantz and the brothers Anckarsvärd visited the Sognefjord and Fahlcrantz painted a large, dramatic picture from Balestrand after this trip. Fahlcrantz highlighted the fjord as wild and untamed nature. Francis Danby is one of the few British artists who visited the Sognefjord in the Romantic period and he painted after the visit in 1840 or 1841 the Lifjord in Sogn.